A Long Road Back

RANDOM THOUGHTSHOT

‘This is the last call for the passengers traveling to New Delhi, India.  The flight will leave at thirty minutes past 9. Passengers traveling to India are requested to board the flight immediately. This is the last call for….’

A man in the traveling lounge stood up, gripping the handle of his case till the knuckles turned white. Straightening the lean shoulders, he stared at the long passageway that led to the boarding gate. And then back to the floor. Thoughts assailed him.

Perhaps this wasn’t a good idea. He has been away too long. People back home would have moved on. He could turn around and walk back out of the gate, back to his sterile apartment in London. And pretend that he too had moved on. At least he could fool the world, if not himself.

A hand crept into the pocket of his coat and brushed against the paper – the letter that had opened the doors of memories. Made him stop and face the past he had been running away from for five long years.

Five years, away from home, living like a nomad, a wanderer who has no anchor till the letter from is sister had brought him to a standstill. “Chottey, it’s time I think. Khushi has the right to have a normal life. If you can’t give it to her, let her go.”

More had followed those stunning words. Each word now etched on his heart, like scars from an old wound.

‘Let her go.’

Perhaps it was time to let everything go.

But he could not. Not until he has seen her once again. Known what she felt. Seen her talking, eating, sleeping, laughing, living. Not like the white corpse she was when he saw her last time. Bleeding, her eyes closed, then covered with bandages, tubes pumping life into the girl who could be called life itself, only the mechanical beeps of the machine telling him that she lived.

Shock upon shock- her state, the truth, his sister, the crumbling pack of cards, his world.

Soon after he had made sure she would be ok, he had upped and left. Like a coward. Unmindful of his sister’s tears, the disapproval in the eyes of his family and hers.

He did not have it in him. To see her in this state anymore. To face her when she talked to him about the mess he had made of her life and his. To meet her eyes and admit that he was the one who had brought her to this.

So he had run. And kept running, refusing to let his parched ears hear her voice, or his tired eyes catch a glimpse. Refusing to let his conscience speak, or listen to its whispers in the dark dreamless nights. He knew that if he did, he would crumble, once again become that little, broken boy who had wept pathetically when his parents died and he was thrown on roads.

But Di’s letter that had pulled him to a standstill. It was the call  to pay his debts and settle the scores. Move on. Let her move on. It was time to face the ghosts he had been hiding from for the last five years.

Move on. Let her move on. It was time to face the ghosts he had been hiding from for the last five years.

Let her move on. It was time to face the ghosts he had been hiding from for the last five years.

It was time to face the ghosts he had been hiding from for the last five years.

ASR took a deep long breath and began the long trek towards the boarding gate, towards home.

 

Khushi reached out to the silence the monotonous alarm of her cellphone at the first ring. She had been awake for a while. In fact, it had been a long time since she had slept the sleep of the carefree and woken up reluctantly to the screeches of her aunt, yelling that girls who slept late would never be good wives. How proud Buaji would be, Khushi’s mouth twisted into a smile that didn’t reach her eyes. Like every day, her eyes turned to take in the cold side of the king size bed and then around the room.

This huge sterile uncluttered room wasn’t hers. Had never been. And yet she had been living her for the last five years on her own – as a wife of a man who had first hated her and then forgotten her existence altogether.

She wondered where he was. Did he plan to return, ever? Or was this the sign of his inexplicable hatred – this limbo into which he had pushed her life?

She gazed at his beloved plants, now trimmed and looked after by a gardener who came twice a week. Khushi had no patience for them. Or for anything concerning him. Once she had given up the foolish dreams of a prince on a white steed and being swept away to a happily ever after, she had accepted that this life wasn’t bad. She was with her family, surrounded by people who loved her though they now tiptoed around the silent brooding Khushi. She had completed her education and trained as a chef. She now hosted a popular cookery show and was almost a public figure.

Successful.

Almost like ASR himself.

Not bad. She had taken a leaf out of his own book – made a life for herself out of the debris of the past.

Yes, she would be okay if he never came back. Happy, in fact. On her own in his cold sterile room.

 

 

 

 

 

Note: Just a scenario that popped into my mind. Nothing follows this…at least for the moment. Have my hands full.

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(Unforgettable) Chapter 33: …can Spring be Far Behind

Sorry Hina, many apologies for being this late despite all your messages. As I told Malvika, I rise out of dust of ages!!!

Really sorry guys for this long a wait for this one. Things at work were pretty heated up for the last few weeks. and for a free-lance writer, any work is good news but it does eat up time :-).

Here is the last chapter of my dear, dear story “Unforgettable.” It has been an unforgettable year long journey and to think that when I started this FF I thought, 10 chapters – 15 max!! I hope you all enjoyed it and many more still will. I am going to keep the blog open for some time more.

I am not sure if I will do an epilogue. THis chapter was difficult because I kept feeling that I was not doing it justice….I wanted the reunion to be grand, earth shattering one. But my words failed. So here it is.

Last but not the least, dont be strangers after this.  I am in process of editing ‘Dust of ages.’ I have to shorten it by nearly 10,000 words.  ANy editors out there? Tips? As I said, it is going to be out by the end of the year. Will keep all updated about it here or on my twitter handle (@vandanasaxena31). I hope we can all meet again to meet to discuss that other twin of ‘Unforgettable.’

Meanwhile since this is done, I will now concentrate on ICHTW and will start updating it soon. 🙂

And now, here goes Chapter 33.

If Autumn comes, can Spring be far behind. (P.B Shelley)

———————————–

And then…. His heart beat stopped for a while only to resume its dhak dhak with an intensity that echoed through his entire being. The words…the voice…the breeze that touched him with the message of her presence.

‘Hariprakashji, Arnavji aagaye? Is he ok? Has he come from Mumbai? Where is he?’

Khushi rushed in and froze….just like the man, who stood frozen some distance away.

This feeling of breath whooshing out of her was old and familiar now.

She had felt it so many times over the years after that first time when she had fallen off the ramp and into the arms of a dark forbidding stranger, the angry man whom she had met at the dargah….and then some months ago, when the stare of the very same eyes had begun the painful awakening her mind.

Fear, anger, reluctance, dislike – there were so many emotions she had come to associate with this feeling.

Over the last two years, they had explore each of these emotions to the hilt – feared immensely, hated from the core, lived through the burning anger.  The strong and powerful emotions tied them together; that overcame that nascent something that lay beneath – something they had never given a chance, never explored.

nafrat ke us mahaul mein … kuch to hai … jo humse kehta hai ki … 

iss ansuni, anjaane se, ankahe se ehsaas ko ek mauka toh do …

AT the moment, seeing him after two months, Khushi felt neither fear, nor anger …only a sense of relief, tiredness – a pleasant sense of lethargy that one feels when one finally comes home.  That nascent something woke from a long slumber and looked around hopefully. She was home.

‘Arnavji,’ she rushed to him. She was home. She was where she belonged.

***************

Arnav too felt the familiar shock. The last time he felt it was in Sheesh Mahal when he had found her – injured, broken but there – alive. And he had set out to get her back – to undo the mistakes of his past.

Over the last two months he had tried to make his peace with the past, that even ASR could not change, and the present, which is so inextricably tied to the past. He had been serious when he told her that he would wait for her for a lifetime. She deserved her chance.

But that did not make it easy for him– living with this loneliness.

So after his last mail, he had decided that he would establish some contact. Talk to her, probably visit Lucknow on pretext of work – he could live, moving from one brief moment of respite to another that her sight and voice would bring. Who could begrudge him such small pleasures?

But now….now she was back. Like so many other times, he saw her stepping in in Shantivan, her eyes darting around for him, always for him.

And he knew in that moment – none of his self-sacrifcing schemes would work; none of those distant relationships. He was not a platonic soul. He wanted it all – he wanted all of her.

For a moment the angry ASR reared up. Khushi Kumari Gupta had had her chance. Now it was his turn. His eyes darted to Hariprakash, who was watching Khushi in surprise as she asked him about Arnavji. Arnav wanted to shout at him to close the door, as ASR dragged Khushi Kumari Gupta to their room and told her that he had had enough. Now that she was back, she had to stay with him. Hell, he could lock her up she denied.

Thoughts and scenes scrambled in his mind though he stood frozen watching her hurry in. Locking her up wouldn’t work – tying her to himself with force– he had lived through the consequences. Khushi Kumari Gupta would fight and fight till either of them gave up.

Arnav saw her see him, the shock and then his name in her voice as she moved towards him – relief and pleasure shining in her eyes as they roamed over him, the thirst for him in her soft voice.

Perhaps….perhaps, he wouldn’t have to force her….hope slowly shook its wings and he took a step forward. ‘Khushi…’

She ran to him, spurred by the sound of his voice.

‘Arnavji,’ she came to stand a breath away. Too far. Her hands came to touch his face. ‘aap…aap theek toh ho?’

The relief in her voice puzzled him. But Arnav ignored it for now as he leaned into her hand, soaked its warmth and held his own arms stiffly to stop them from hauling her to him.

‘Y…Yes, Khushi, how come…why…why are you here?’

She said nothing but continued to look at him. Taking in slightly gaunt face, he had lost some weight, forgotton to shave for a few days perhaps. Did she smell alchol? But Jeeji said he wasn’t going that way any more. Probably she did not know. And…and he had fainted two days ago….he wasn’t looking after himself…

‘Khushi, Did you come alone?’

She shook her head still engrossed in him. ‘Amanji,’ she was still dazed. ‘He came to take his family to Lucknow.’

‘But what happened?’

‘They…they  said you …they would not say….I…Di said you were unwell. You fainted a day before going to Mumbai.’

‘A day before…but it was two weeks ago…’

‘You haven’t been looking after yourself.’ The other hand came up to his other cheek. Khushi stood there as if in a dream….all her anger, her reluctance forgotton when she saw him. ‘Di said…and you also…you did not reply to my phone calls, my messages. I thought…you…’

‘I lost my phone, Khushi,’ He let his hand creep up and join hers near his face. ‘And there was some problem with the email…I asked Akaash to…’

‘Akaash Jeeju said you were unwell but you inisisted on going to Mumbai.’

‘But Akaash knew…I don’t know what…’

‘But I know, Arnavji. You never listen to anyone,’ Khushi snatched back the hand he had been holding against his cheek before stepping back. ‘You do whatever you want. To hell with people who care…’

A sliver of irritation surfaced in Arnav’s eyes as he felt her withdraw, missed the warmth of her hand. And…and how dare she shout at him when he had been longing for her every moment of the…

‘And Scotland…’ Khushi went on. ‘You call up Jeeju to tell us that you are going to Scotland. All of a sudden, no need to let anyone know…’

‘But Akaash knew I was going to Scotland long time back,’ he yelled.

‘How does it matter,’ Khushi continued as if he had not spoken. ‘How does it matter what the rest of us felt…Di was so worried. Naniji…all…But for you, your business, your AR, your deals….’

Khushi turned away towards the door, irritated beyond care. And why should she care, if the man in question was so insensitive that he did not even realize that his family had been worried…that she had been…

It was an error, turning away and walking towards the door.

‘Khushi…’ that was all she heard, before the man walked in front of her and hauled her up against him, his arms around her, holding her still in his vice-like grip, not permitting her to move an inch….away from him.

‘Don’t you dare walk out of this door. Not now…not ever again. We…we are still talking.’

‘Talking!….you have not been talking, Arnavji, for …for so many days and …and now you,’ the overwhelming feeling of warmth, of being in his arms after such a long time, it was her undoing ‘Arnavji, Do you know what I have been…..you…you were going to Scotland. Di said you were unwell and …and yesterday you called up, like …like last time…you just said….’ Khushi choked before giving up the battle with tears. She held the lapels of his shirt and sobbed against his neck and shirt.

The anger drained at the sight of her tears. Things fell in place. Oh God. She must was worried. Last time when he went to Scotland, despite all her pleas, things had fallen apart. And yesterday, he just called and said….. How stupid of him! She, Khushi, must have lived through those days again.  How insensitive he was. And Di, Akaash, in fact each one of his crazy family must have worked on anxieties to send her here.

‘Khushi,’ Arnav rested his cheek against her head as his hands roamed over the back and he murmured words of comfort. ‘Where will I go without you? I would always be here, waiting for you…wherever you leave me. I, Khushi, you left… and ….and forgot….’

Khushi shook her head and cried harder. Her hands came to clutch his shoulders.

‘But now that you have come back…I should tell you something.’

‘What?’ she murmured between the sobs.

‘Khushi Kumari Gupta, you have lost.’

Khushi looked up puzzled. He was smiling – that half smile of his – that endearing smirking half smile.

‘You lost to your sister and mine. It must have been there plan to send you here…’

‘P…plan…’ Now that he said so, it did seem like one…

‘Just like the one you played on Payal,’ Khushi looked at him. ‘To get her to agree for the marriage…’

Yes, it made sense. Her wet eyes narrowed. Suddenly all that…that overacting made sense.

‘But you know what, Khushi…I am not complaining.’

Her mouth opened in outrage before his lips settled on herss.

Words lost meaning, plans forgotton, thoughts scattered, as two souls – hungry and parched – discovered fulfillment. Oh, Arnav and Khushi still fought, complainted, teased and taunted, in a way old and primitive as time – still testing each other to the limit. Was it a few moments, hours…days  before they came up?  They had to breathe too.

‘You cannot go back now, Khushi.’ Arnav said when they came up for air. ‘You made your decision when you rushed here. I will not let you leave now….’

‘Arnavji, I made my decision before that…but you…you weren’t there to listen.’

‘I am sorry ….’ Arnav muttered, his heart rejoicing at her words as he bent to brush his lips against hers.

‘Don’t go…’ she murmured against his rough lips. ‘Don’t go to Scotland….’

‘Come with me….’

‘With you…’

‘Yes. Just you and me,’ no longer content at the flimsy touch, Arnav once against settled his mouth against hers. ‘come…’

A sharp sound interrupted the two lovers.  It took them a while to come out of the haze. It was Arnav’s phone.

Akaash calling.

Arnav smirked. Now that he had what he wanted, his brother did deserve a minor heart attack. Mischief twinkled in Khushi’s eyes as she pointed towards herself and shook her head.

Arnav nodded and picked up the phone.

‘Akaash,’ Arnav managed in a bored tone.

Silence.

‘Akaash. Are you there?’

More silence.

‘Come on, if you just have to stay silent then, I don’t have time.’

Some whispers and hissing later, Anjili came on phone.

‘Chottey,’ she said in a soft and low voice. Khushi pressed her ear against his hand that held the phone.

‘Yes, di. Are you okay?’ Arnav glanced once again at Khushi. Probably it was her spirit of mischief, he thought. It’s contagious. He turned back to what his sister was saying.

‘Chottey, are you home?’

‘Yes di. What is it? Is everything fine there….Is…is Khushi okay?’ Arnav snaked his arm around Khushi, pulling her closer and they listened through the receiver.

‘Chottey….Khushiji should be there…with you?’

‘What? Here with me…how…when….what are you saying, Di?’

Khushi buried her head in his shoulder. He felt her shake with suppressed laughter.

‘But she left this afternoon. She should be there….’

‘Di, what did you all do?’ Arnav started.

He was interrupted by a chorus of voices.

‘Aman says he dropped her outside Shantivan.’ It was Lavanaya.

‘Hey Bhagwan. Kahan hogi, Khushi bitiya?’ Nani

‘Dadi, Khushi should be there in Shantivan.’ Payal

‘But she is not there. Call Amanji again, Lavanaya.’ Anjili.

‘I told you this was wrong….’ Akaash. ‘This plan was stupid. I should have stopped but all of you dragged me into this…this…

‘Aur main toh mor bangaya….I stole Nannav’s phone…’

‘Mor nahi, Nanheji,’ Khushi burst in giggles. ‘Mor nahi….aap chor hain.’

A moment of silence on the other side as Khushi giggled and Arnav whooped in laughter.

And then the chorus again.

‘Bhai, I had a heart attack.’

‘Khushi ki bachi!’

‘Chottey, humari to jaan hi nikal gayi.’

‘Very clever, Nannav.’

‘Anjili bitiya, no need to tell them that Khushi bititya’s papers and tickets are in the topmost drawer of my shelf. Let them suffer.’

‘Jee Nani. Chottey and Khushiji, you deserve that…after all this. Understand!’

‘But they will be back before my wedding. Right guys?’

‘Ji Lavanayaji. The ticket at least says that…but you never know, especially with those two.’

And thus dear readers, we leave the two pesky lovers whose lovestory had held us enthralled. Did they stop being irritating? Did they stop fighting, hating hurting —-loving, adoring each other? Well, the answer is obvious, isn’t it? After all theyare Arnav and Khushi!

(Unforgettable) Chapter 32: If Autumn Comes….

Here is Chapter 32. Once again sorry for the delay. Busy in the last minute edits of the book. BTW I would be very very grateful if you go here and comment. Please, if you love these stories then please take out a minute and help me. As a first time writer all this is going to be very helpful for me. ANd I would keep you updated with what is happening on publishing front, the book covers, formats, give aways etc. It would be really awesome to share this new journey with all of you, my first readers. 🙂

Chapter 32: If Autumn comes….

 

‘Bhai…Khushiji is here. Talk to her,’ Akaash said suddenly.

 

The next voice was hers. ‘Arnavji.’ Khushi. How long since he had heard her. Arnav took a deep breath and closed his eyes. The noise of traffic, the whirr of the car faded. Her words fell like a rain on his parched heart and he soaked in them ‘Are you.. are you ok?’

 

He swallowed working his mucles, trying to respond.

 

‘Arnavji,’ she seemed breathless.

 

‘Khushi…shhh. I am ok.’ He heard her take a deep breath. Was she worried about him? Why did the words not come to him when he needed them so much. He wanted to ask …so much. Did she ever  miss him…like he did, every single second? Did she think of him kindly…was there…..Was she…will she ever  be ready to come back? The questions jumbled up in his mind, words twisted around. And they were all encompassed in the words that fell from his mouth, involuntarily.

 

‘I love you, Khushi.’

 

He never meant to say them…never meant to weigh her down with his feelings.

 

Silence.

 

She did not reply. Was she….Had he been too fast. Did she not like it? Did she still not believe? The thought…her silence it wounded him with each passing second. Perhaps it would be best if they did not talk till she….till she came to a decision. Arnav disconnected, taking a deep breath to ease the pain somewhat. It did not help.

 

 

****

 

Khushi handed back the phone in a daze. Her heart beat a dull staccato. The memories which had been playing a truant for last one year now returned with a vengeance. Scotland trip, new deal, days without any news and then one phone call.

 

‘Scotland,’ she whispered. ‘Why is he going to Scotland, jeejaji?’

 

‘For business, Khushi,’ Akaash answered. ‘It’s ok. I booked the tickets myself. He is going to be fine.’

 

‘But…but then…why…why did he disconnect…why did he not speak to me earlier? Did not message.’

 

‘Khushiji…’ Akaash put a consoling hand on her shoulder.

But the words were lost. Behind them, Anjili sat on the couch with a thud, her eyes bearing a haunted look.

 

‘Khushiji is right, Akaash. We should not have left him alone. He…he is going to Scotland. I should have stayed back.’ Anjili wrung her hands, her worried eyes moved from Akaash to Khushi. ‘He is not well…and he is unhappy. He isn’t looking after himself…The last time he went…what if?’

 

‘No,’ Khushi whispered.

 

This couldn’t be happening. She couldn’t let it happen…There was so much she had to say. So much to tell him….They…they had a life …a life to live. Together.

 

The answer emerged clearly…an answer to all her questions, his questions –the answer, in all its beautiful simplicity. That they were meant to be together.

 

And now the cycle of time was turning again, ready to take away her happiness. Why, Oh why had she been so stubborn? Why did she delay so much? Two months! Had it been that long since she had seen him.

 

‘I…I need to meet him, Jeejaji,’ Khushi grabbed Akaash’s hands. ‘I need to see him. Before he goes to Scotland. I have to see him’

 

‘I…I..’ Akaash was stumped. His wife’s stupid plan had worked. Despite all its over the top emotional drama, it had worked. And Khushiji! For a moment, he was tempted to give it all away. She looked so distraught and worried – a victim of her own phillumi-ness.

 

The thought must have shown on his face, for his wife immediately appeared on his side, with her soft firm hand on his arm.

 

‘I think Khushi should see him. He is going for two weeks. She will stew here. And who knows, how he will fare there,’ Payal said softly willing her husband not to destroy all this hardwork. ‘Akaash,’ she shook his arm. ‘Khushi should go to Delhi today. Arnavji’s flight in the morning. He would be in Delhi in the evening.’

 

‘Yes. Yes, I should go today.’ Khushi looked around for support.

 

Lavanaya watched her friend’s distress. ‘Go with Aman then, Khushi.’ She said. ‘He is going to visit his family, bring them here for the wedding. He can…he can accompany you.’

 

‘Yes,’ Akaash finally found his tongue. ‘I will make the arrangements.’

 

‘And I will help you pack up,’ Lavanaya drew Khushi towards ther room ‘No point taking away everything. You will be there for the wedding. ASR has promised Aman. And I am not getting married without you. So you better be back soon…and I would….’

 

Lavanaya chattered, allaying Khushi’s anxiety with  another recital of her wedding plans.

As the two girls left, the room burst with whoops of self congratulatory celebration. Akaash shook his head as NK presented an imaginary award to Anjili and his wife applauded on.

****

Arnav threw his jacket on the lounger and then gave in to the temptation. The house was too lonely, too empty. Cold dinner waited for him downstairs.

 

He needed a drink….a drink to forget the mess that he had made of his life.  Darkness had homed in in his heart eversince that phone call on his way to Mumbai airport. Khushi still did not want to hear him. Never, never had he felt so hopeless…she was slipping away, leaving him behind and he could nothing but watch her walk away from him, his life – long, empty and dreary as this house.

 

Arnav made his way to the poolside and sat on the deckchair, just as he had done months ago, swirling the whisky tumbler, taking a sip, waiting for the drunken stupor to bring in the numbness.

 

A doorbell startled him. Who could it be….it wasn’t that late…only 7pm. But he was in no mood to entertain guests. Hariprakash could take care of them.

 

But whosoever was ringing the bell did not believe in the virtue of patience,…two rings

or courtesy…another continuous ring

or plain simple good manners…the bell went on chiming.

 

‘What the hell,’ Arnav rushed out to give the intruder a piece of the famously-angry-ASR mind

And then…. His heart beat stopped for a while only to resume its dhak dhak with an intensity that echoed through his entire being. The words…the voice…the breeze that touched him, carrying the perfume of her presence.

‘Hariprakashji, Arnavji aagaye? Is he ok? Has he come from Mumbai? Where is he?’

 

 

—————

As you can guess, there is going to be one more chapter, and then probably an epilogue.

Once again, go here and answer the question.

(Unforgettable) Chapter 31 : What goes around, comes around

(Not proof read. Please bear with that and let me know the glaring errors)

Nearly a day later, there was still no message. Khushi kept checking her phone growing more worried with each passing hour. It did not oblige her with the familiar ring. Neither came any mail.

What came instead was the Raizada clan. The very next evening Naniji, Payal, Anjili, Aditi, NK and Akaash were in Lucknow, nearly a fortnight before the wedding. All eager to meet her and take a vacation, they told Khushi. Sheesh Mahal transformed into the noisy happy house it once was – during another wedding long time ago.

But the man that her eyes sought did not come. Neither did anyone mention him. Khushi submitted to the excitement of reunion – all the time his absence and silence nagging in her mind.

Finally as they sat together after the dinner, Khushi could not contain her anxiety.

‘Is Arnavji coming soon?’ She turned to Akaash casually.

‘Yes…er…Bhai..soon’ The simple query stumped Akaash and he turned to his wife with a look that was somewhere between an angry glare and a pitiful appeal for help.

Khushi turned to Payal and looked all confused. Payal pursed her lips and glared as if asking her husband to man up.

Anjili came to the rescue of her poor tycoon of a brother whose tongue always knotted and stuck in his throat when he had to lie.

‘He said he would be here for the wedding,’ she said. ‘He had some meetings in Mumbai.’

‘Yes,’ Akaash recovered, glancing apologetically towards his wife before turning excitedly to his sister-in-law. ‘That is what I was saying. Very important meetings. Only Bhai could handle. The Mehta group is our biggest client. We do a business of crores every year. They are based in Mumbai but have branches all over India and South East Asia. Deal in high quality fabrics. This deal might be the most profitable one in the year….and…’

As he paused breathlessly, Payal interrupted.

‘Why don’t you mail the details to Khushi, Akaash,’ Payal narrowed her eyes in an effort to suppress a smile. ‘I am sure she would like to know all that.’

‘Of course, Of course,’ Akaash murmured. But his relief was shortlived.

‘But why does he not pick up his phone?’ Khushi asked him again.

Don’t ask me! Akaash wanted to scream. Ask NK, he stole Bhai’s phone. I have already faced ASR’s ire when he called from airport. He would have to buy new phone in Mumbai, Arnav had said in irritation.

‘Tell everyone Akaash that I am ok,’ Arnav had said. ‘Tell everyone that I will be touch. Akaash, I mean everyone…tell everyone…’

As if Akaash did not understand that everyone for Bhai meant Khushiji.

And there was more to come. Bhai’s phone would take another day to activate. His mail was deactivated from the server. Tomorrow he would call and shout and ask ‘Have you informed everyone…I mean everyone, Akaash.’ Why was he in the line of fire while three masterplanners glared at him.

‘He….Nannav, lost his phone, Khushiji’ NK said. ‘Didn’t he call from airport, Akaash?’

‘Yes. Yes.’ Akaash nodded before thanking NK silently. Who said he was a joker. NK was the smartest of them all. He would tell Bhai when they met, Akaash thought as he slumped back into the chair.

Khushi looked confusedly as her normally confident brother-in-law squirmed under her simple questions. Something was wrong. Was Arnavji…

‘Is he ok?’ she turned anxiously to Anjili di. ‘Is Arnavji ok?’

‘Yes. He is okay now… he assured us when we were leaving.’ Anjili answered with a heavy sigh.

‘Now?’

‘Yesterday he fainted,’ Payal answered in a soft voice. ‘His sugar levels, you know.’

‘He doesn’t take care,’  Naniji shook her head in sorry.‘I am so worried about the boy.’

Payal, Anjili and NK heaved another dramatic sigh.

Overacting, Akaash thought. Not that he would tell his wife. He was already going to receive an earful for his nervousness.

‘But why did no one tell me? Why, Jeejaji?’ Khushi turned back to Akaash.

Akaash squirmed again as all the eyes turned to him. Why him? God, Khushiji was a match for Bhai – as relentless as him.

‘Because he insisted he was okay,’ Payal came to chivalrous rescue. ‘And…and he insisted on going to Mumbai himself.’

Akaash nodded and gulped down a glass of water, excusing himself when the phone rang.

They were succeeding, Anjili and Payal shook hands as they watched Khushi. She looked restless at the breakfast next morning. This time she did not wait. Had Arnavji called? She asked as soon as everyone settled.

‘Yes,’ Akaash managed, tutored by his wife over the night. ‘Yes. He said that he should be able to talk by the  evening. He …said…he said he was ok.’

KHushi nodded thoughtfully and turned away. What was wrong? She could not tell. Buts something was. All her being was focused on the absent man. Lad governor! his silence had given her a sleepless night. Perhaps …perhaps she would talk to him.

Yes, she decided. She would talk to him.

Khushi felt lighter as soon as she had made up her mind. It was time to meet him half way. It had been nearly two months. But she had realized that she would never be completely happy away from him. Perhaps they could sort out everything once the wedding was over. Perhaps they would sort out things all their life.

Fighting and making up – all their lives, Khushi did not want anyother life.

How empty everything would be when the family left, when Lavanaya and Aman too would leave for their honeymoon. Home, yes she too would go home. Finally she knew what she wanted.

Eagerly she waited for Arnavji to call Jeejaji in the evening. But when the call came, it took pulled the earth from under her feet.

‘Scotland, Bhai. You are going to Scotland?’ Akaash said loudly. ‘I hope everything is ok there.’

Scotland! Memories assailed Khushi. The last time Arnavji had said he was going to Scotland and all had gone wrong.

‘What, Bhai? Can’t hear. You…did you say you are going to be in Delhi…When are you going to Scotland?

Khushi saw her worry mirrored in a quick anxious look Anjili cast towards her before turning back to Akaash.

‘Bhai…Khushiji is here. Talk to her.’

‘Arnavji,’ she took the phone eagerly. ‘Are you.. are you ok?’

Silence. Was he ok? What was the noise behind him?

‘Arnavji,’ Khushi couldn’t help a sob of fear.

‘Khushi…shhh. I am ok.’

A sense of déjà vu hit her again.

‘I love you, Khushi,’ Arnav told her over the phone. Khushi closed her eyes. The phone went silent. No, no. It couldn’t be happening again.

——————-

Here is the update. Really sorry to be so late and thanks a lot for keeping up with this.

The trick played on Khushi might be unkind but then what goes around comes around!! Just hang on…soon it is going to be a happy reunion.  🙂

For everyone who hasn’t been to the ‘coming soon’ section, please visit it. Yes, it is going to be published soon. I know many of you assumed the other story that I had been talking about (the one I was writing along side Unforgettable) was an arhi story. But it isn’t. I was seriously working on a book and it is done now. You can read the blurb of ‘Dust of Ages’ in the Coming soon Section.

I hope you would all read and like it as much as you have loved this story. I would keep you guys updated about ‘Dust of Ages’ here or you can follow me on twitter.

So stay in touch.

Part 30d: You’ve got mail

It had nearly been a day. Arnav had spent most of the time gazing at the laptop – reading Khushi’s mail, memorizing the words of the small post script. Several times he began to write and then erased it all. Nothing could convey what he wanted to say? What did he want to say? Just ask her to comeback. They would work it all out together. But how to convince Khushi?

And so sat Arnav Singh, ready to open his heart, ready to go on his knees, ready to beg – but the words did not come.

‘Bhai,’ Akaash interrupted his musings. Arnav looked up, tearing his eyes from the lone word on the mail that he had been gazing at for hours now. Khushi.

‘The meeting in Scotland is fixed for Monday. That gives us four days. You said you would like to go for it. Shall we book the flight?’

‘Yes, Akaash. Let’s ask Sim to do that. It should not clash with the meeting in Mumbai,’ he was flying to Mumbai in a few hours to seal another deal. ASR picked up the phone ordering his secretary to do the needful. As he disconnected, the peon entered with two cups of coffee.

Arnav looked at his brother questioningly. Akaash Raizada took the seat opposite his brother, sitting back to relax. ‘I thought we could do with a break. It has been a busy time.’ Arnav nodded, as he picked up his coffee.

Eversince Khushi’s return, the relationship between the two brothers had been on a mend. Akaash had once again started seeking his brother out, and Arnav talked about work as if it meant something to him. When Khushi had decided to return to Lucknow, Arnav half expected Payal and Akaash to withdraw from him once again. But they hadn’t. Few days ago, Payal told him that she was looking after him till her sister returned.

Akaash also looked after him in his own way. Going to work together, coming over to his cabin for coffee or lunch which Payal would send for the two of them unerringly everyday, fixing and planning meetings, bearing most of the burden of running the business as he had done earlier when Arnav had ceased caring, giving Arnav time to recuperate and at the same time pulling him along to work so that he did not relapse into the same indifference and depression that he had undergone immediately after Khushi had gone the last time.

Arnav drank his coffee listening to Akaash as he detailed his Scotland trip. Words from Khushi’s letter came to his mind.

I might have fallen down then, had my friend not kept me afloat. Paison ke liye nahin, Arnavji, par un logon ke liye kuch bhi kar sakte hain.

It seemed that she whispered in his ear as he watched Akaash and he finally understood what he was meant to know….what both of them were meant to know. Something that Payal and Akaash, his di and everyone else involved in this drama had known.

It is not about being middle class Khushi, his heart whispered back, his gaze fixed on his steady and strong younger sibling. It was about being equals; it is about relinquishing control over others and making yourself vulnerable; it was about letting others take care of you at times. Payal and Anjili were strong enough to fight their own battles; we just had to stand besides our sisters. But both of us had taken over their lives. When they would have done with some support, we had pushed aside payal and Anjili from making the most important decisions of their life.

No, Khushi. We were both been wrong. Both of us wanted to control the happiness of our people. I tried to do that by my money and ego; you did it obliterating your self, your desires, your wishes to make others happy. We were both equally wrong.

He had done right by letting Khushi go. But that….shouldn’t that be it? She could not define the relationship and its boundaries. He had as much right to them, hadn’t he?

Khushi. Suddenly the desire to see her was like an ache around his heart. Probably a quick trip to Lucknow, just a glimpse. Who would know?

‘You will have only one night here in Delhi in between before you fly to Scotland,’ Akaash was saying.

Akaash’s words put paid to the idea, as he reminded him of his schedule over the next two weeks. It seemed that he would see Khushi only on the wedding now.

‘I can fly directly from Mumbai to Scotland day after tomorrow,’ he said biting back his disappointment. ‘Why return to Delhi. Then finish the work and come to Lucknow for the wedding.’

‘No,’ Akaash jumped up suddenly. ‘No bhai, you…you have to come back to Delhi.’

Arnav watched his brother in surprise. Akaash suddenly seemed agitated. Why was he so adamant on his return to Delhi.

‘There are some important papers you have to sign before you go…’ Akaash stammered. ‘You will be in Delhi for one evening. There are important papers which ….which are not ready yet. So between Mumbai and Scotland there has to be Delhi.’

Arnav nodded, still mystified but he agreed. Akaash knew more about business these days. ‘Then…I will see you all in Lucknow.’

Akaash smiled in relief. ‘Yes. Di and Payal want to leave in a day or two. They are so eager to go to Lucknow and meet Khushi. So is NK. I think it is going to be a grand reunion of Raizada family at the wedding.’

‘We must do something about it then,’ Arnav found himself light hearted enough to joke. Something about Akaash’s visit and the thoughts it brought had eased his mind. He saw the way ahead clearly. ‘Aman might just decide to quit…accusing us of stealing the thunder on his big day. Good that others are going this early.’ Arnav murmured.

‘Indeed,’ Akaash smiled back. It is you and Khushiji, bhai,only you pose that danger to AMan’s wedding. Others don’t matter. Akaash looked at his brother thoughtfully, noting the strains of envy in the voice.

‘Just to remind you, Bhai,’ Akaash said as he got up to leave. ‘You will have to send the important mails today. The server will shut down for maintainance tomorrow. After that it might be erratic since you would be out.’

Akaash quickly rushed out, heaving a sigh of relief that his task in this mad plan was over. Just a small message about the possible failure of web server that would interrupt the mail and a day’s blip in bhai’s email services. Indeed his task had been easier, compared to NK’s. He had heard it vaguely. NK planned to steal bhai’s phone before he went to Mumbai.

His vindictive wife, headstrong sister and  foolish cousin thought that was all that was needed to hurry up Bhai and Khushiji. Not that he did not understand. Indeed they were all getting impatient. Imagine that, bhai, Arnav Singh Raizada, calmly writing emails to woo his wife. Who would have thought to see a day when sun rose in the west.

Arnav turned back to the computer as soon as Akaash left. Khushi, the name on the screen blinked at him. His fingers flew to the keyboard. It was going to be a short one…this message. Probably it would irritate the hell out of her too. But it is time, Khushi Kumari Gupta Singh Raizada, two more weeks, he whispered as he typed the message. You can have two more weeks to do as you want and then I am going to be with you and spend rest of my life answering all your profound and not so profound questions! Just two more weeks.

If Arnav Singh Raizada was slightly mistaken about the time frame of the reunion that his siblings had set for him, then Khushi was even further away from the goings-on. She puzzled over the short message. Unlike the long last one, in which he had bared his heart, this one was impatient, short and puzzling. Indeed that old incorrigible Laad Governor seemed to be making a comeback.

From: Arnav Singh Raizada ASR@ardesigns.com

To: Khushi K.Gupta <khushikumarigupta@xyz.com>

Date:  Fri, Feb 26, 2014 at 2.35 AM

Subject: Re:Aap Theek Ho?

Khushi,

Shayad tum galat ho Khushi. Na hi baat paise ki hai or na hi class ki. And neither are we so different. Infact we are too similar, as your sister would tell you. She has told that to me often now. Once you are willing to listen, she would gladly explain that to you too.(Perhaps you are wrong Khushi. It is neither about money nor about class).

And I think you should listen to her and your friend. Now that you are finally ready to admit it, rather than spending our lives separately thinking and yearning for each other constantly, don’t you think it better that we be together? This time there are not two ways. Dimaag se nahi to dil se kaam lo, Khushi Kumari Gupta Singh Raizada. Aur Wapas aajao, Khushi. You can spend rest of your life devising these questions that I would be happily willing to answer them all.

(If not your mind, use your heart. Khushi Kumari Gupta Singh Raizada. And come back).

Tumhara

Laad Governor

PS: You have two weeks, jaan.

 

 

 

It made her angry, it made her smile. It made her recall the battles of the past. Khushi, who could not refuse challenges, jumped up at the postscript.

‘Rakshas,’ she muttered. ‘And I had been feeling sorry for him. I try to be nice, and he turns into a rakshas.’

‘Nahi to kya kar lenge aap.’ She texted furiously on the phone. (And what if I don’t agree)

‘Don’t worry, I will not force you here,’came back the reply immeditely. ‘But I told you last time in Sheesh Mahal. I can always shift to Lucknow, Khush. It would be nice to spend time with you…away from the family.’

Jaan! Khush!! What had gotten into the man suddenly.

‘Lucknow is a big city.’ Khushi messaged and she waited.

And waited. The reply did not come. The phone was switched off.

———

And we rush headlong towards the end  🙂 Enjoy. Will update the other in a day or two!

(Unforgettable) Chapter 30c: You’ve Got Mail

From: Khushi K.Gupta <khushikumarigupta@xyz.com>

To: Arnav Singh Raizada ASR@ardesigns.com

Date:  Thu, Feb 22, 2014 at 8:04 PM

Subject: Aap Theek Ho?

Arnavji,

It has been two days. You must be thinking that I have relapsed into silence again. It is not so. I have been thinking, thinking a lot, trying to make sense of what you said.

Lekin sach kahen? Aap burra toh nahi manoge? (But shall I tell you the truth? Will you mind?). I am unable to understand it all. Some things I do. I try to put myself in your situation and see, but I can’t. Humme abhi bhi paise ki baat samajh nahi aati. ( I still don’t understand all this talk about money). Perhaps because there are other truths about us …truths that we cannot ignore; truths due to which we never got along in the past, and may not even in the future.

Sabse bada sach yeh hain Arnavji, ki aap or hum ekdum alag duniya se hain.  (Because the biggest truth, Arnaviji, is that we belong to different worlds.)  We think differently, we react differently. I am an orphan from the middle class and the very idea of middle class and its people was so abhorrent to you once.

My thoughts are different, my values are different. For me, relationships, happiness of people around me always came over money. And just the way you did not understand that, I do not understand you.

Since we are being honest and admitting mistakes, I might as well admit mine and apologise for it, thought it is too late.  I should have told Shyaam’s truth to you or Anjili di as soon as I discovered it. I even came to do that. But the idea of giving so much pain to Di, you, your family, the thought that I would be the reason behind your suffering, I could not face that. Like a coward I gave up and preferred to live in a fool’s paradise. That Shyaam would change; that once the child is born he would mend his ways. I should have known that he never would. But I had convinced myself to live in denial.

I am not saying that my way is better than yours. It  led me to errors of judgement. I would like to think that I have becme more careful, more discerning. I am not sure. But I am a middle class girl; a girl who even lived through  poverty in the last one year. I might have fallen down then, had my friend not kept me afloat. Paison ke liye nahin, Arnavji, par un logon ke liye kuch bhi kar sakte hain. (Not for money, but for the sake of those friends, I can do anything). It was same with me then. It is so now. Perhaps I will always be middle class.

Khushi

Khushi sat back, re-reading the mail. She wasn’t satisified. But even when thinking and wiritng, it was a difficult conversation. They would never have made it, had they been face-to-face. Passion, anger, sadness and tears would have taken over long ago. Perhaps that wouldn’t have been so bad, her heart whispered stiltedly. He would have put his arms aournd her and she would have sobbed on his chest. Perhaps that would have been enough to finish it all. Perhaps she should give up this stubbornness, give in and return. It would not be so difficult; even now those harsh scenes of the past were losing their sting. They did not pierce her as they had done weeks ago. She had been truthful. She would never understand things that drove Arnavji. But she often felt that those motivations were no longer important.

Her musings was interrupted by Lavanaya hwo sat on the oppsotie chair with a thud, showing off her manicured and polished hand. She would be a bride soon. Her face glowed with happiness.

‘Poor Aman ji. He is going to fall in love some more and there are still two weeks to go.’ Khushi teased.

Lavanaya blushed as she rolled her eyes, and then glanced at the laptop. ‘Writing to Mr.Raizada?’

Khushi nodded and turned serious. Lavanaya had been a great friend, giving her space but of late, she was being rather pushy when it came to her.

‘You are still not ready to call and talk.’

‘Not yet. There are some more answers that I need.’

‘Hisab maang rahi ho, Khushi?Are you asking him to account for all your suffering?

 

Khushi felt her hackles rise. ‘Not you too, Lavanaya? You think I have no right to these answers…that I should tow the line…’

‘No, you shouldn’t. In fact, if you were dead set against the man, then I would have been fine. Absolutely. But I see that you are not happy. Neither would he be. If I remember him correctly, he would be missing you terribly. His heart would have burst with hope with your mail, he would have laid bare his heart when he wrote to you. Tell me if I am wrong, Khushi.’ Khushi sat silently, Lavanaya’s words joining along with NK’s. ‘And then the days you spent thinking over it (Yes, I do watch over you Khushi), think how he would have suffered? Thinking that the mail he sent might have repulsed you, waiting day and night for a word from you. The extent to which he went to get you back, anyone can see. He loves you, Khushi. No one can deny it. Not even you.’ Khushi nodded. ‘And you love him too. I see that you miss him. Terribly.’

‘Khushi, its okay if you want more time,’ Lavanaya continued, sighing at Khushi’s silence. ‘But be honest and admit. Don’t withhold hope from him. It is not like to punish someone like this. That too a man who loves you so.’

Khushi nodded silently and Lavanaya left her at the that, hoping that she had not said too much.

Khushi watched Lavanaya’s retreating back. Perhaps her friend was right. LAvanaya, who Arnavji had thanked for looking after her in such a heartfelt manner, whose wedding he had arranged, for whose happiness he had done all he could. Why? Because Aman Mathur was his friend, and Lavanaya who was her close friend. For you, her heart whispered. For you, because he knew it would make you happy.

I am not saying I am changed man Khushi. That is for you to decide.Words from his letter came back to him.

Khushi added a small postscript to the mail and sent it.

 

Arnav’s phone beeped. Was this it? The message he ahd been waiting for days, afraid that his mail, his admitting that he had no answers for the past, might have put her off. The letter asked for more from him…but the postscript. It warmed him, it promised nothing, but it was generous enough to give hope. If it was possible he fell in love some more.

PS: Ek sach aur bhi hai, Arnavji. (there is one more truth). That I miss you terribly. Day and night. Jeeji asked me some days ago ‘tumhe kya faraq padta hai, Khushi.’ Lavanaya too told the same thing to me just now. Let the bygones be.

Magar baat apki hai isliye faraq padta hai. Whatever may be the outcome of all this, I know that as long as I live, you would always dominate my thoughts, my memories, my heart.  Laad Governor!

————-

Here it is! I feel like giving myself  a pat on the back. It is not even that short!! 🙂

(Unforgettable) Chapter 30b: You’ve Got Mail

Chapter 30 b

The house was quiet and dark but Arnav had hardly noticed it. Eversince his phone had beeped and he had seen the message, he had been unaware of the surroundings. The storm inside him raged as he sat in the serene night of Delhi’s shortlived spring; the inner turmoil overtook the world around him. Everything else had ceased to be.

The surprise at Khushi’s mail, the baited breath and jerky fingers as he had opened the mailbox after faltering several times, and then his heart had raced as he read her letter for the first time. Now hours later, somwhere between night and day, between yesterday and tomorrow, between the past and the future, Arnav Singh Raizada struggled with the questions of the present, the questions Khushi asked, the questions that lay beneath this anguish and separation.

He had read her mail so many times….so different it was from the love letter that she had written once, on behalf of his fiancé, her friend, promising to cook pasta for him, make him happy or else to jump off the hill. How different the girl was …and yet how similar. Arnav had seen the glimpse of this Khushi too, in the girl who had shown him the stars.

The directness of the mail haunted him. As if he, his behavior, his callousness had jolted her belief that there was goodness in the world, the unreasonable suffering had made her question her conviction that everything happened for a reason, that there were her loved ones watching over her. It had shaken her trust in others and in her own self.

It demanded honesty, as direct as she had been. But going back over those times, he had trouble understanding what had possessed him then. How to explain those deep inexplicable feelings, a fear to trust and a yearning to let go, the anxiety that he would be hurt and yet a desire to open his heart to the happiness she offered. He didn’t know the words.

So hours later he sat staring at the blank screen of his laptop. ‘Yeh ladki mujhe pagal kar degi’ he shook his head knowing that he would rather be driven mad by her than be left without her in the world. He had to get her back. Arnav took a deep breath and began writing.

From: Arnav Singh Raizada ASR@ardesigns.com

To: Khushi K.Gupta <khushikumarigupta@xyz.com>

Date:  Fri, Feb 21, 2014 at 2.35 AM

Subject: Re:Aap Theek Ho?

Khushi,

Yes, it was a surprise. A surprise that I dared not hope for. Another thing that I should thank Lavanaya and Aman for then.

Main theek hoon, Khushi. Aur abhi shayad Khush bhi hoon.  (I am okay, Khushi. And for now, happy too.) If NK’s visit has brought about this, then, I promise truly I have never appreciated NK as I do this evening.

Khushi, I have been thinking for hours now. I know until I answer these questions neither of us will be able to let go of the past. But even after re-living those times again and again, in the last hours, weeks, months, I still have no answers.

Khushi, mere paas koi jawaab nahi hai. I have no answer to your questions, no way that I can tell you, explain and justify what I was then when I was with you. You are right. I was angry, I did not trust anyone around me. Even my family.

I saw love, even my family’s,  as their need – their need for me, and all that I stood for. You know, for Akaash’s marriage, when you were teaching me about the ways of the heart, I brought Mamiji around by warning that she would lose her status as a Raizada daughter-in-law if she opposed the marriage, though I knew that beneath all her make up and jewels she was the woman who sold her jewellery to fund my studies, who never diffrerentiated between Akaash and me.

Only with Anjili di, I let my guard down. But even with her, I liked it when she was with me, liked to protect and look after her. I told myself that she needed me, believed that she clung to me because she was weak and I was strong. Her tears, her pain made me feel helpess, as if I could still not control our lives. They brought me to my knees so I tried my best to stop them. By giving in to her wishes, her desires, I believed I granted happiness to my weak handicapped sister.

Over the last year I learnt a lot about her. She is a strong woman, a woman who knows how to get her way, a woman who can stand alone merely by her faith in God and her believe in love and goodness, just like you. But then, I had not looked deeper enough to appreciate even my sister. The mindless desire to make money, get to the top, overcome and control life around me – probably all these tied me to the past which I never cared to examine. Never had time to. For me love was synonymous with need. I saw everyone’s need for me, for the money, the power and the status I brought and that made me stronger.

Yet you are right. No one bore the constant brunt of anger. Despite my arrogance, I got along with others. I don’t know why you bothered me. Probably because you never needed me in the ways I understood need. Probably because I knew that though you fascinated me, you were never really interested in ASR. That all I stood for had no value for you.  I wanted you to show weakness, ask for help, lean on me, so that I could gloat and look down on you, as I did at every one around me. Even when you came to Shanti Van on Di’s request, and often sought me, I rubbed my power and status in your face, because I wasn’t even capable of understanding that friendship and sympathy you offered was not dependent on any of these things.

But when I assigned motives of money, I could make sense, a warped kind of sense but still something I understood. And so I went on, though you kept confusing me and I became harsher. Do you remember that Diwali night…how many times I have yearned that phone call had not interrupted us? That I had not used my mind to make sense but listened to the beats of my heart. And then Payal’s wedding, how many times I have re-lived those days from Sangeet to the wedding, wishing for a different outcome – that I stayed back to hear everything, that I spoke to you instead of Shyam.

Perhaps you are right. I can get away saying that it was convenient to distrust you. We had known Shyam for long. He had been living with us. Di’s husband, my sister who was pregnant, my sister whom I thought was blind in her love. But none of thse excuses can justify the fact that I loved you (Yes, I did) and yet did not trust you. I loved you and yet decided that you should suffer, without giving a second thought to your side of the story. With my ideas of money and its power, everything seemed stark clear – motives that I assigned to Shyam, motives that I assigned to you.

Later in those few months living with you here, in this room, with me, the conviction that there was more to the world than money and status, that my understanding was limited, stunted – it stared in my face so often. Yet I refused to give way; being ASR, it could not bow down to you. Even when you told me the truth, I could not listen. ASR could not be wrong.  Admitting that I had erred, would mean that I had made the biggest mistake of my life; that the very foundations that I stood on were false. I was stubborn mule, a monster as you correctly called me so often.

The lessons in love that you tried to give me when bringing Mami around for Akaash’s wedding– I learnt them, Khushi. Learnt them the hard way. In the one year that you were gone, no one has needed me. Payal was ready to give up on her marriage, on being a Raizada daughter-in-law when she learnt the truth. Akaash walked out giving away Raizada house, the name, the money. My brother who, I thought, I followed me beause I brought him success; the brother, whom everyone thought was my shadow, he stood by his wife. He has become a son to your parents. My sister’s love proved to be much mpore discerning. You know, I think Di was not even surprised to learn about Shyam. But my mistakes shook her. I had destroyed everyone’s peace, had taken them all for granted. But they stood by me, Khushi. Despite all I had done, they spared some moments of their day for me, as a brother, as a son. Never let me alone, not because they wanted anything from me….but because they loved me.

I understand now. I will not tell you that I am changed man. That is for you to decide. I did not tell you anything when I found you again because after a long time, I felt alive, I felt love, I felt the need to be needed. And this time, I was not confused by what I wanted. I wanted you. And I got you. Call me selfish if you want to. Khushi, if there is anything in this whole saga that I don’t regret, I don’t regret lying to you that day when I found you in Sheesh Mahal once again. Much as it angers you to hear that, I would change a lot of things of the past if I could, but I would not change that. Never. I can never take away the pain and suffering that all underwent because of me, especially you. Perhaps the shadow of my errors will take a long time lifting. But these weeks have given me some peace, some memories to live by.

Tumhara Laad Governor

Arnav

—————-

Indeed, now that I am writing it, it does seem weird, especially after watching some fo the initial episodes (remember that what nahi pot, gamla scene :-D). Those Khushi and Arnav writing mails – strectches your imagination a bit. But I would like to think that a lot of time has passed, too many things have happened, and both of them have changed – a more mature Khushi, and more honest Arnav. That is what I told myself.       .